Discoveries on Craving and “Not Enough”

Throughout the past mindful eating workshop I taught, I had the benefit of 10 mentoring sessions. These sessions provided a platform for me to explore the way some themes play out in my personal practice as well as my teaching, while venturing outside of my comfort zone. Space was generated for numerous illuminating discoveries, some of which took place around the theme of “not enough”.

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This theme was really salient during the session on Craving. In preparing for it, I asked all participants in the group to bring their craving food for the next class. Three days prior to the session, I found myself wondering whether everyone would bring it or not – OK, more like worrying obsessively that not everyone would bring it. Two days before the session, I started thinking “Maybe I should bring a tray of options… I’ll get Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Yes! That’s it. Wait, not everyone has a sweet tooth. So I’ll add some salted nuts. But then, some will surely crave spicier food. I’ll have to add Doritos, the hot kind. Oh, but how about mangoes with chili? Yes, those too. Oh, and don’t forget the chocolate!”. You get the drift, right?

Then, another voice “But everyone will be bringing their food”. “But what if they don’t?” “Then that is interesting information, too, right? And you can do inquiry around that”. “Yes, but I still want to bring a tray of options. Otherwise, the session won’t be interesting enough, or fun enough, there won’t be enough variety.” Fortunately, by around this time, I caught myself. I had been totally swallowed by the content of my inner dialogue, in which perfectionism was getting the best of me. I took a step back, to simply observe thoughts happening. I observed the anxiety around providing participants with a “good” class. I felt it in my body. Out of a greater clarity, I made the decision to not bring anything other than my presence to class… that’s enough, right?

I wish I could say this decision brought me serenity. The reality was anything but. I spent the next day stepping in and out of an inner debate (more like a battle, really). And throughout those seemingly endless hours in which I held fast to my decision to not act out the impulse to go and buy the Krispy Kremes and all the rest, I had to really work to stay with the discomfort arising from not doing moreoffering more. It took a lot to simply stay with the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, with the sensations of my heart racing in my chest. And there was often the temptation to just yield, to just get rid of that discomfort and go get them. After all, it was for the benefit of my students, right? Not really. The one struggling with the discomfort was me, of course. The one hung up on the idea that somehow I had to offer something else, because my presence was not enough, was me.

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In the end, I resisted the impulse to make that last minute run to the store to get a tray of food to offer to those who hadn’t brought it. I surfed my craving to give more, to offer more, to offer everything.

The fact is, as someone teaching mindful eating, like participants in my groups - and like all humans, really - I too struggle with extremes… all or nothing. And like every human, I crave. I crave variety, excitement, intensity, peace, calm, comfort.

The same way as for everyone else, there are beliefs in my life linked to habituated patterns. There is the belief that if I don’t give everything I’m not giving enough. I was professionally trained to “cure”, to “eliminate symptoms”, to “alleviate suffering” in an active way that involves intervention. And this of course fit with a world vision that made sense given my personal history. It provided me with a sense of control. So, as in my life, in class I find it difficult sometimes to just be, to just sit with whatever is.

I am grateful for the safe holding environment that the mentoring space provided me with. This allowed me to in turn model that for my students, to not let my beliefs, my habituated patterns, interfere with their experience around choosing a food or not, bringing it to class or not, surfing the craving or not, and making their own discoveries around that.

What do you crave as a teacher? How does “not enough” play out in the way you teach?

If you would like mentoring around this or other related aspects of offering support for people struggling around food, eating and body, perhaps you’d like to work with me.

Lilia Graue